14 dead, at least 100 hurt in Mexico oil company blast

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An explosion at the

office headquarters of Mexico's state-owned oil company in the capital

killed 14 people

and injured 100 on Thursday as it heavily damaged three floors of a

building, sending hundreds into the streets and a large

plume of smoke over the skyline.

Another 30 people were reported trapped in

the debris late Thursday, as soldiers with rescue dogs, trucks with

mounted lights

and a Pemex crane were brought in to extract victims. The Interior

Ministry said it was uncertain of the exact number of people

trapped because many were outside having lunch when the explosion

occurred about 3:45 p.m. local time in a basement parking

garage next to the iconic, 51-story tower of Petroleos Mexicanos,

or Pemex, one of the tallest buildings in Mexico City.

"It was an explosion, a shock, the lights went out and suddenly there was a lot of debris," employee Cristian Obele told Milenio

television, adding that he had been injured in the leg. "Co-workers helped us get out of the building."

President Enrique Pena Nieto said

authorities have not yet found out what caused the blast in the 14-story

building in a busy

commercial and residential area. Pemex first said it had evacuated

the building because of a problem with the electrical system.

The company later tweeted that the Attorney General's Office was

investigating the explosion and any reports of a cause were

speculation.

Ana Vargas Palacio was distraught as she searched for her missing husband, Daniel Garcia Garcia, 36, who works in the building

where the explosion occurred. She said she last talked to him a couple hours earlier.

"I called his phone many times, but a young man answered and told me he found the phone in the debris," Vargas said. The two

have an 11-year-old daughter. His mother, Gloria Garcia Castaneda, collapsed on a friend's arm, crying "My son. My son."

The tower, where several thousand people

work, was evacuated following the blast but not damaged, according to

Gabriela Espinoza,

50, a Pemex secretary for 29 years who was on the second floor

when the explosion next door occurred.

"There was a very loud roar. It was very ugly," she said.

Espinoza's co-worker, Tomas Rivera, 32, worked on the ground floor and was knocked to floor, fracturing his wrist and jaw.

Hundreds of firefighters, military in camouflage and Red Cross workers hauled large chunks of concrete and looked for victims

late into the night, with at least four bodies pulled out of the rubble, according to an Associated Press reporter at the

scene.

The exploded building was intact on the outside but filled inside with debris.

Television images showed people being evacuated in office chairs, and on gurneys. Most of them had injuries likely caused

by falling debris.

"We were talking and all of sudden we heard

an explosion with white smoke and glass falling from the windows," said

Maria

Concepcion Andrade, 42, who lives on the same block as the Pemex

building. "People started running from the building covered

in dust. A lot of pieces were flying."

Police landed four rescue helicopters to remove the dead and injured. About a dozen tow trucks were furiously moving cars

to make more landing room for the helicopters.

"I profoundly lament the death of our fellow workers at Pemex. My condolences to their families," Pena Nieto said via Twitter.

He later toured the scene.

Streets surrounding the building were closed as evacuees wandered around, and rescue crews loaded the injured into ambulances.

The injured were taken to Pemex's hospital

in the capital's northwest delegation of Azcapotzalco and the Red Cross

hospital

in the Polanco neighborhood near the oil company's office

headquarters, where relatives huddled in the waiting room for news

of their loved ones. Some walked out of meetings with the hospital

social worker joyous, while others came out crying.

Pemex, created as a state-owned company in 1938, has nearly 150,000 employees and in 2011 produced about 2.5 million barrels

of crude oil a day, according to its website, with $111 billion in sales.

Shortly before the explosion, Operations Director Carlos Murrieta reported via Twitter that the company had reduced its accident

rate in recent years. Most Pemex accidents have occurred at pipeline and refinery installations.

A fire at a pipeline metering center in

northeast Mexico near the Texas border killed 30 workers in September,

the largest-single

toll in at least a decade for the company.